With new movies now in production, Star Wars is back in a big way. There are few fans bigger than the 501st Legion, which is a Star Wars costuming organization with 6,000 members worldwide. A local chapter of that international fan group is made up of both Fort Campbell soldiers and civilians.
Scanning the crowd at the Lexington Comic and Toy Convention, there were storm troopers, jawas and the emporer himself. However, this was a dark side that has never kidnapped a princess or frozen anyone in carbonate.
"As a solider we have those same morals and ethos that the 501st Legion carries; leadership, duty, responsibility," said Spc. Alex Brown of Fort Campbell. "You're a soldier here, you're a soldier there. It fits. It strikes me to my core."
The local group was at the convention for a raffle to benefit the UK Children's Hospital.
Their work seemed all the more important with the arrival of the biggest Star Wars fan in the galaxy, 9-year-old Toby Foster.
"Before I saw Star Wars, my life was not that amazing," said Toby. "Ever since I met the world of Star Wars, my life has changed from 'ehhh' to 'waaaahhhh!'"
The 501st lined up a special meeting between Toby and Star Wars Ewok, Felix Silla, and stunt man Dicky Beer. It was a proud moment for mom Amy Foster, who stood back snapping shots of a tough kid who believes the power of the force has gotten him through so much.
"Toby has mitochondrial disease," said Foster. "It effects energy, life-sustaining energy, whether from playing like a regular kid outside to the energy to beat your heart. We don't have to do this anymore, but at first when they had to access his port and it was difficult and scary and worrisome, he would lay on the hospital bed with a pillow on his face. I would tell him a story about him being a Jedi and actually being a doctor that turned into a Jedi. The mental images and getting lost in the story of his favorite thing, Star Wars, got him through the procedure without the anxiety."
Before he left, the 501st escorted Toby to someone he's waited his whole life to see, Peter Mayhew, Chewbacca himself.
"It's very much part of the Star Wars situation where you get charitable things," said Mayhew. "We just do good."
"I'm glad I wore this bucket because there's not a dry eye among us," said Brown. "It touches our hearts, and this is the reason why we do it."
"God's blessed me with all this stuff," said Toby. "This is probably the best time of my life."
"He's never going to forget it," added Foster. "They've made his dreams come true."
Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved
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